*This talk has its loose origins in my doctoral thesis “Social Construction of a Bad Woman” from 2014 and has been presented at the conference “Engendering Difference: Sexism, Power and Politics“, that took place on 12-13 May 2017 in Maribor at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Maribor, Slovenia.*
“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them, women are afraid that men will kill them”. – Margaret Atwood
Zgornji citat povzame kulturno klimo, ki smo ji osebe ženskega* spola izpostavljene celo življenje, saj je – statistično gledano – intimno-partnerski umor (IPU v nadaljevanju) najpogostejši razlog za nasilno žensko smrt po svetu. Prizadene ženske vseh starosti, razredov in etničnosti/rase in v Sloveniji, kjer so umori redki, je najpogostejši način pokončanja žensk. Če bo ženska v Sloveniji umorjena, jo bo najverjetneje umoril zdajšnji ali bivši partner, saj je najnevarnejši prostor za žensko prav dom.
Sodobna mitologija o materinstvu zajema tri temeljna načela: (1) vse ženske so bodoče matere, (2) ne-matere so nesrečne in nezadovlj(e)ne in (3) otroci so na prvem mestu. Ko se ženska odloči iz bioloških ali družbenih razlogov, da ne bo mati (tj. ‘postane ne-mati’), tako odločitev žensk – kljub postmoderni metodi o izogibanju konfliktov – nenehno spremlja nehoteno ali celo dobrohotno ideološko vsiljevanje t.i. ‘materinskega mandata‘. Materinski mandat prepričuje žensko, da je materinstvo nujna življenjska izkušnja, ki predvideva, da je ženska ‘naravno’ voljna, da prevzame bodoče materinske obveznosti kljub temu, da mora prekiniti svoj utečeni potek življenja.
The ‘F-rating’ system, invented by Holly Tarquini, Bath Film Festival director in 2014, gives “F” (or feminist) rates to films that are directed, written or feature women as main characters with their own narrative. It’s been also adopted by IMDb.
To be awarded with one, two or three F’s a film must be: (1) directed by a woman, (2) written by a woman and/or (3) have significant women on screen in their own right. So, when a film is directed, written and has a woman’s narrative as a central premise, it gets 3F. Getting 2F rates means that a film is either directed and written by a woman, or written by a woman about a woman’s story, or a woman is directing a woman’s story. A film gets 1F, if it’s directed or written or revolves around a woman’s narrative. For other films, zero F—s.
In gymnastics, a somersault is a 360° flip in the air or – when done on the ground – a roll. The starting position resembles the final; however, because of the distance made from the point A to the point B finish is never start. Or to paraphrase Heraclius: “No woman ever steps on the same ground twice, for it’s not the same ground and she’s not the same woman.” In Somersault (2004), a film written and directed by an Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland, the teenage protagonist Heidi does a geographic somersault – she runs away from home after fallout with her mother but eventually returns. Yet it’s not her escape that I’m interested in, but the unconventional use of the one woman’s touch as an essential tool to perceive and bond with the world.
Ivanka in Melanija postajata bolj in bolj prepoznavni širšemu svetu, saj poosebljata žensko inačico ameriških sanj o uspehu – ena je ameriškega predsednika hči, druga njega žena. Obe sta polni privilegijev, ki omogočajo dobro življenje: belopolti, na vrhu socioekonomske hierarhije, heteroseksualni in dovolj religiozni. A za tradicionalno volilno telo je najpomembneje to, da zadovoljujeta estetske standarde popularne ženskosti, ker sta grajeni kot manekenki, brezhibno urejeni in ultra feminilni. Kljub tem skupnim imenovalcem pa predstavljata nasprotujoči si podobi sodobne ameriške ženskosti, ki delujeta kot da ne razumeta v celoti druga druge in ne drugi njiju.
The dominant definition via Urban Dictionary, an Internet platform that creates many cultural stereotypes and debunks them at the same time, describes crazy cat lady as “an elderly suburban widow who lives alone and keeps dozens or more pet cats, usually many more than municipal code allows, in a small house, and refuses to give away or sell them even for the sake of the safety of the cats or herself”, “a woman, usually middle-aged or older, who lives alone with no husband or boyfriend, and fills the empty lonely void in her life with as many cats as she can collect in one place. Said homes are usually very stinky and the aforementioned woman may also very likely be white trash”, “a woman who loves her cats more than people”, “that old lady that lives down the street from you that has over a dozen cats named after each of her ex-boyfriends that have done her wrong”.
We all know what sexism means – it is a prejudice (i.e. discrimination or uneven treatment) against people on the basis of their gender (e.g. women, but also trans, genderqueer, gender fluid or intersex people) that operates on the societal, organisational and interpersonal level, can be typed as blatant, subtle or covert and can manifest in different dimensions (e.g. formal/informal, cumulative/episodic, deliberate/unintentional, public/private, Benokraitis and Feagin, 1995).
But what is an internalized sexism or misogyny? It is not hard to imagine that if the society is sexist, women won’t pick up or internalise those attitudes and definitions about their own gender on the basis of those beliefs. Internalized sexism happens when a woman is using the same sexist attitudes and beliefs about her gender towards herself and other women. Any woman can be subjected to sexist attitudes from two different sources: the opposite (e.g. men) and the same gender (e.g. women), so being a woman is like being caught between Scylla and Charybdis.
A flaw is a visible imperfection that deviates from the standard of what is normal or casual. It may appear irrelevant or even harmless, but the sheer existence of flaws indicates that somebody or something does not measure up to the arbitrarily constructed models of “perfect” conduct, behaviour, lifestyle or bodies. Flaws, therefore, are being marked as Othered because they should be concealed or corrected (i.e. disciplined).
To point out someone’s flaws is a weapon of microaggression and policing against someone’s personhood that does not live up to be flawless (or perfect). When a person has failed at something and is therefore self-defined and societally defined as “incompetent”, “improper” or “inadequate”, he/she/they are comprehended as a small-scale failure. Even a small-scale failure, manifested as a flaw, is not allowed in Western (although pluralistic) society, which is constantly striving for success and perfection.
In the postmodern Western society, sexism has become less obvious, which does not mean that it has disappeared, it merely changed its modus operandi. Instead of blatant sexism, as it was the practice in the past, it became subtle and covert. Due to the internalized sexist standards, subtle sexism often goes unnoticed, so it is perceived as “normal”, “unproblematic” and common. For example, condescending chivalry (i.e. courteous, protective men’s behaviour towards women carries an assumption of women as helpless subordinates) or subjective objectification (i.e. a type of sexism where women are perceived as “Smurfettes”) are subtle forms of sexism.